A scene from a 2019 production of ‘Mamma Mia!’ at the Capitol Theatre. The stage will host an actual criminal trial at the end of September. Photo: Tyler Harper

The trial must go on: Nelson’s Capitol Theatre to host Supreme Court case

The manslaughter trial of an RCMP officer will start at the theatre on Sept. 28

A real courtroom drama is about to play out at Nelson’s Capitol Theatre.

The 93-year-old theatre will be the stage for the trial of Castlegar RCMP Const. Jason Tait, who is charged with manslaughter in the 2015 death of Waylon Jesse Edey. The trial is scheduled to start Sept. 28.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Attorney General told the Star physical distancing measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a search for a larger venue than the Supreme Court room at the Nelson Courthouse for Tait’s trial, which will include a jury and is expected to take six weeks.

“The ministry canvassed a number of venues in Nelson that could accommodate a jury trial, taking into account the physical distancing guidelines required under COVID,” said the spokesperson.

“The only venue that met the requirements of a court facility (including counsel stand down rooms, jury box, public gallery, judges chambers and other considerations including proximity to accommodation and possible jury deliberation sites, courthouse, security etc.) was the Capitol Theatre.”

Related: Jury selection begins in Castlegar RCMP shooting death

Criminal trials resumed Sept. 8 at B.C. Supreme Courts after being shut down March 19. Plexiglas barriers, limits of the number of people in a courtroom and screenings at courthouse entrances are among the changes that have been introduced at courthouses around the province. When necessary, the ministry said, jury trials would be held in off-site locations.

The trial will be one of the few events to be hosted at the 400-seat Capitol Theatre in 2020. Scheduled shows, such as a performance by legendary Canadian children’s star Fred Penner or a local production of Little Shop of Horrors, were either cancelled or postponed following the provincial lockdown in March.

But the theatre has continued operating. Its annual summer youth program moved outdoors and changed from an on-stage play to a film production, it assisted with local Canada Day celebrations by pre-recording speakers and performers for an online video, and in August renovations began on the theatre’s washrooms.

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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